Microblogging officially tips over into the mainstream
Call us contrarian when it comes to over-hyped new tools, but in our experience, early adopters end up with a lot of useless old tech piled in the back of their cupboards (Newton MessagePad? Check. First generation Nokia WAP phone? One of those as well. Sigh). We’ve pissed away enough money on not-quite-fit-for-purpose ‘innovations’ that we even waited until O2 dropped the price a hundred quid before buying the obviously-bloody-brilliant-from-day-one iPhone.
So pardon the lack of excitement we’ve shown thus far for microblogging poster-child Twitter. We’ve never been much interested in the textual ramblings of ad execs and VCs, or the geeky late night geekings of geeks. But Twitter seems to have transcended the demographics of its early adopters, and is now not just mainstreaming, but actually helping people. Data point — evidently Twitter users in China alerted the world to the recent earthquake even before the US Geological Survey picked up on it (and that’s their job!). While closer to home, we’re finding that microblogging Twitter-stylee actually fits nicely into our post-FaceBook networked world of intimate strangers (and intimate strangeness!). All part of the ongoing Great Adjustment of social meaning. Go on. You know you want to.
If you’re interested, we’re darrellberry and bigshinything on Twitter. Share your Twitter IDs in the comments to this post, if you want.
Ffffabulous for design ffffreaks
We’ve lost the last day of our lives playing on the closed beta of ‘image bookmarking’ site ffffound. And so have our design- and photography-loving friends. So we guess that’s a big thumbs up.
ffffound is — like the best 2.0-ish sites — dead simple. Install a bookmarklet into your browser, then, when you see an image you like on any site, anywhere, mouse over it, click the FFFFOUND button, and the magic ffffound fairies will add that image to your collection on the ffffound site, where other people can find and favourite it. Kind of a stripped-down flickr for stolen (sorry — ‘quoted’) images, meets Digg, with a collaborative filtering recommendation system under the hood. And that’s it. No tagging, no text: just images and a community of image fetishists. It shouldn’t be as addictive as it is. But it is. The closed beta has obviously attracted a community of design obsessives, and the content is generally excellent. Shame the screensaver seems to be buggered on our Macs.
We think ffffound is One to Watch. We’ve already used up our complimentary invites, so you’l need to get your access elsewhere, sorry. But get on the phone to your friends and try to get signed up.
Yahoo! takes its corporate clod-hoppers to the photosharing site… and messes up bigtime.
Why do big companies like to stifle little ones? You’d have thought that in the brave new Web 2.0 world, big brands would have a better way to deal with mergers and acquisitions but apparently not. Example: we are currently witnessing a major user-generated riot as long-term Flickr users are informed by Yahoo! that they will soon have to use a Yahoo! id to access and use the photo-sharing site.
We’re with the rioters.
Yahoo! bought Flickr a while back. Since then it’s grown hugely and doubtless benefited from Yahoo!’s grown-upness and corporate clout. As for us users, the folk who actually populate Flickr with our stuff, Yahoo!’s presence has until now been pretty benign. We’ve also been patted on the back for being ‘old skool’ by Flickr when we sign in — i.e. a user from before the buyout. This makes us feel kind of with it and proud in a very ‘get me i’m an early adopter’ type way. We’re also the biggest marketing tool Flickr has. Only yesterday we were earnestly telling colleages that ‘Flickr changed my life’. And it has.
Here’s an email that one of us sent on receiving the mail saying that I would soon need a Yahoo! id to sign in — the petulant tone is particularly important:
I don’t want a sucky Yahoo! account.
I hate Yahoo!
I like being an old skool user.
I guess that Flickr/Yahoo! are betting they can afford to lose the old-timers for the sake of more joined-upness and the ability to flog Yahoo! products to the Flickr users who are left. We’re just left feeling that something brilliant has now been tainted and that — much like when Google took over YouTube — the party is somewhat over. And — more worrying for Flickr — I don’t know if I’m going to be envangelising about Flickr for much longer — not if it involves becoming a Yahoo! user. Urgh.
Gawker Media gets serious: sacks staff and sells sites.
Blog overlord Nick Denton of Gawker Media has started to behave like a proper media magnate. An ex Financial Times journalist, Denton made his fortune on First Tuesday (remember them?) a dotcom social networking site that reportedly sold for $50 million and Moreover Technologies, which sold for a reported $39 million. Ever the entrail-reader of digital media, Denton has established a blogging empire in Gawker Media which produces tightly-written blogs on Manhattan media, tech, the LA scene and seemingly anything else which could interest the young professional.
But Denton’s clearly playing a long game. In recent days he’s put two underperforming sites up for sale, reorganised others and even sacked several editorial staff.
The changes come as Denton when apparently on top of his game. Page views at his sites have doubled in the last year; Gawker Media and Nielsen/NetRatings put monthly unique visitors at 4.2 million. The crucial advertisers flock after the sites’ ohsodesirable demographic: Gawker’s media pack boasts “The majority of our readers are 26-35. Around 75% are university graduates, 18% with advanced degrees; over 20% more attended/attending university. Almost 30% have a HHI of over 100K; Over 70% above 50K.” At one point last year the buzz got so loud that even Vanity Fair was forced to take note and gave the key staff of Gawker and Defamer their own double-paged spread.
Denton told the New York Times, “Better to sober up now, before the end of the party. We are becoming a lot more like a traditional media company. You launch a site, you have great hopes for it and it does not grow as much as you wanted. You have to have the discipline to recognise what isn’t working and put your money and efforts into those sites that are.”
Traditional media owners beware – they’re not as fluffy as they look, these bloggers. As Denton notes, “The barrier to entry in Internet Media is low. The barrier to success is high.”
MySpace has unleashed its lawyers on relationship-alert site SingleStat.us. What does this say about its attitude to Web 2.0 in general?
MySpace mashup SingleStat.us is no more. The site enabled users to find out when another MySpacer’s relationship status changed (feeling like you’re not getting enough attention from the freaks? Change status to ‘single’ and stand back!) — a classic third-party hacker addition to an existing service. According to TechCrunch, MySpace lawyers have ‘cease and desist’ed the site’s owners, and claim that the system caused MySpace ‘substantial and irreparable harm’ due to the ‘undue burden’ it placed on their systems.
All of which flies a bit in the face of MySpace’s claims to membership of the Web 2.0 elite — unlike many contemporary sites, MySpace has yet to publish an open API, which would give wannabe mashers-up of the system a documented, manageable interface into MySpace’s internal workings — in the light of which it’s hardly surprising, given MySpace’s success, to see people developing their own ‘unofficial’ techniques for MySpace hacks and tweaks, as SingleStat.us had done.
When BigShinyThing raised the ‘missing API’ question with MySpace at the recent Mashup* session in London, their reply was that MySpace is ‘worried about the security implications of open source’. As open source is an entirely different class of thing to an open API, we suspect their representative was simply a bit confused about this whole ‘how the Internet works’ thing. Nevermind.
Maybe they’ll get there, or maybe they’ll keep locking out the people who care enough about their product to extend it, and who see enough unexpressed potential in it to build profitable symbiotic systems around what it does. If that’s the case, good luck to them when a serious competitor comes along, which, unlike MySpace itself, actually encourages some modern mashup fun at its periphery. Stay tuned.
“The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?”
Back in the day, Jaron Lanier invented Virtual Reality — or at least Virtual Reality in its original 80s form: helmets, 3D, the works. Since then, his pundity has become an intelligent, annoying and often insightful thorn in the side of mainstream digital culture. His latest volley is against a meta-concept that underlies the Wikipedia and much of Web 2.0 — the belief that ‘no-one is smarter than everyone’:
The problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it’s been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it’s now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
It’s a good, contrarian, rant. Enjoy.
[Via the ever-stimulating Edge]
Culturejamming fashion goes from joke to instant product range & fame via social media.
We’re evidently not the only ones tantilised by the blurred out, pixelated non-sponsored brand identities on reality TV. The good people over at Ironic Sans obviously had some time on their hands, and decided to turn the problem into an opportunity. Presto: pre-pixellated clothing for reality TV contestants. Or any other media-whores.
And this being Web 2.0, their mocked-up ideas were made instantly available as the real thing using the on-demand printing services of the truly cool CafePress service. From idea to product probably took all of five minutes, with all the promotion happening word-of-mouth and -mouse online. Case study time, anyone?
And we have to wonder, idly, whether he’s actually trademarked these images…